Citizen input is crucial

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We think the June 1 public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2017-18 county operating budget in Lunenburg County — one that includes more than $250,000 in additional local money for the schools — is crucial for many reasonas.

The $250,384 recommended increase — one that came during supervisors’ Thursday meeting —  is more than $544,000 less than the $794,786 school officials requested in March.

According to District One Supervisor T. Wayne Hoover, the increased funding would be enough to give school staff a 2-percent raise without raising taxes.

The public hearing — slated for 6 p.m. — is the formal, on-the-record opportunity for taxpayers, parents, farmers, teachers and anyone else who has interest in the county or school’s affairs to offer input on the proposed budget and tax rates before supervisors make a final decision.

During the Thursday meeting, Hoover said that the school’s request came during an already difficult budget year that required several changes to county government, including switching to a new health care provider to combat rising costs.

“Unfortunately, at this time, we cannot fund that amount based on what we have,” Hoover said, later adding, “I will also say on the other side of the coin, we’re able to give that additional quarter million without a tax increase this year.”

According to school officials, the more nearly $795,000 in additional funding would not only give staff a 2-percent pay raise, but result in the hiring of additional staff, in addition to covering increasing retirement and health insurance costs.

Budgeting above the more than $250,000 increase could result in a tax increase for those living in or who own property in Lunenburg. The county’s .38 cent per $100 of assessed value real estate tax rate is one of the lowest in the state.

The question those who favor additional money for the schools — more than what’s proposed by supervisors — is whether or not they want to see their tax rates increase.

And that can only be answered by the taxpayers.